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Earlier this week, Indiana became the next state to consider legalization of sports betting – following the thus-far-unsuccessful lead of New Jersey.
But the most notable development in the Indiana legislature may be the simultaneously-filed proposal to regulate fantasy sports leagues conducted at its racetrack casinos (or “racinos”).
Rep. Alan Morrison has introduced House Bill 1073, which would allow the state casinos, “racinos” and off-track betting locations to offer sports betting if the Indiana Gaming Commission says that it would be permissible under federal law.
As was the case in New Jersey, revenue is a major motivator: The Indiana State Legislative Agency reportedly determined that the state would gain between $12-70 million on taxes from sports betting.
Indiana’s legislative proposal by no means a sure bet to be enacted into law. Indeed, ironically, Indiana is the home of the National Collegiate Athletic Association – one of the most vehement opponents of legalized sports betting, and a plaintiff in the lawsuits that have blocked New Jersey from enacting its own sports betting regulatory scheme.
The most interesting thing is that sports betting is not the only thing on the mind of Indiana legislators: Rep. Morrison has also introduced House Bill 1074, which would authorize Indiana’s “racinos” to offer fantasy sports leagues, and provides that gambling crime statutes do not apply to a fantasy sports league conducted at a racino.
The bill makes clear that fantasy sports leagues at licensed racinos would be legal (and regulated), but does not speak to the legality of fantasy sports contests conducted elsewhere or otherwise.
A serious question is whether the bill is written that way because legislators anticipate – or intend – that fantasy sports will be illegal elsewhere and otherwise in the state.
Another less threatening possibility is that legislators may view this as a way to build a clientele for sports betting if and when it is permitted in the state.
There is no way to know whether legislators in other states will follow Indiana’s lead on fantasy sports, but the industry should undoubtedly take notice of the risk that its future could be limited to licensed and regulated entities.
Interested parties will certainly watch the fate of House Bill 1074, and for signs that other legislatures may consider similar proposals.